Jenny M. – MBA Candidate at Wharton
Jenny grew up in San Jose, CA and went to UC Berkeley for undergrad, where she met her fiancé. She worked in management consulting in San Francisco out of college, and then decided to pursue an MBA at the Wharton School, and transitioned into a career in branding and marketing in the food industry. She now works for Impossible Foods. Fun fact: Jenny’s favorite vegetables are beets, her guilty pleasure is Shin Ramen, and her favorite food texture is crispy.
1. Why did you decide to go to business school? Did you always plan to apply? How much influence did being Asian or having Asian parents play in your decision?
Business school was always part of my “5-year plan” out of undergrad, even though one of my majors was already business. I think getting a Masters was influenced by my Chinese parents who think that you need it to have not only job security but also display competency. In this way, I always planned to apply after at least 3 years of working, and took my GMAT during my first year of work.
When it came time to apply, I knew I wanted to further my expertise in marketing and that my long-term goal was to become a CMO. However, being surrounded by tech by growing up in the Bay Area and having many friends who worked in tech did make me wonder if I needed an MBA if I wanted to just switch from consulting to product marketing at a tech company.
I came to realize that what I was most passionate about with marketing was actually physical products like food and apparel, and that I knew no one in that space. I thought an MBA would help me pivot to it and broaden my exposure and network. Living in the Bay for so long can feel quite monotonous or even homogeneous after a certain point – everyone kind of values and talks about the same things.
2. What did you do before business school?
I was a management consultant that specialized in marketing strategy projects, working with CMOs at companies ranging from eCommerce, social media, and enterprise software.
3. What was your strategy to get into business school? What do you feel you did right and what could you have done better?
I actually discourage people from trying to devise a business school ‘strategy’ or thinking of applications in this way, and encourage everyone to be true to themselves rather than try to mold themselves into a certain “type” of candidate that they think the business school would want/create a certain “angle” for themselves to get in.
The best thing you can do is to truly reflect on why you want to go to business school and what a specific school can offer you vs. what you can offer it. Oftentimes those are going to be questions that admissions will ask either in person or in the application process, and it can show when it’s too contrived.
4. What was the hardest part about the application process? How important is work experience?
Hardest part was definitely the essays – it forces you to do a ton of self reflection.
At least 2 years of work experience is recommended, and preferably experience where you showed leadership or stood out as a top performer within a team or organization.
5. How did you study for the GMAT/GRE?
Buying a whole Manhattan GMAT test prep kit (I think it was like 10 books) and just doing as many questions as possible. Be strict on yourself about really understanding why you got something wrong, rather than just marking things correct/incorrect.
6. How did you choose which schools to apply to and the one you are currently attending?
Since I was sure I wanted to focus on marketing, I was focused on schools whose marketing programs were known to be top notch – Kellogg and Wharton.
Both gave me generous scholarships, Kellogg gave more, but Wharton seemed to take a more quantitative approach to marketing (which is where I see it going in the future), and my fiancé (then boyfriend) had gotten into Wharton.
7. How are you financing business school? Is the cost of an MBA justifiable in your opinion?
I was very fortunate and received a generous merit scholarship from Wharton. I paid for the remaining costs with my savings.
If you try to calculate a ROI for your MBA, you will fail trying. There are so many experiences that aren’t quantifiable and can change a lot of your perspectives or growth trajectory both as a professional and as an individual. That being said, as a generalization I would say the cost is not going to be immediately worthwhile unless you intend to career switch into finance. However, there’s more to your job and career than how much you get paid (fulfillment, lifestyle, etc.).
8. How do you think Asians are perceived in business school?
I think in the application process, we are subject to stereotypes similar to the college application process – that we would have high GPAs and GMATS and likely pursuing “traditional” careers like consulting or banking.
9. What’s a typical day like as a business student? Is there one?
There is no typical day as a business student because people come to business school for many different reasons, and your daily schedule will be an output of those priorities. For example, someone who prioritizes academics might spend a lot more time in class, studying, or in team meetings, while someone who prioritizes recruiting might be spending a lot more time networking and making trips to interview.
10. I have heard people say, “Business school is a just bunch of networking,” or “You don’t need an MBA to work in business.” How would you respond?
I would say both of those are true, but they don’t reveal the whole picture and are not doing business school enough justice.
11. What is the greatest value a business school education provides? What advice would you give someone trying to be better at networking based on what you learned in business school?
I think the greatest value my experience provided me was definitely the network for life (I can now feel comfortable reach out to anyone in the world who is a Wharton alumni and have great chances at meeting up or getting connected to a job), but also the personal growth.
My advice to people trying to get better at networking is to try to find some kind of connection you have with the other person, and to be very specific about your needs in your email (ex: if you are looking for a job, summarize wh you are interested and some key relevant accomplishments you have that would make you successful in the role).
12. What has been your best decision in business school? What’s a mistake you feel you made in business school? What been most rewarding for you?
My best decision in business school was to go with my fiancé! It was great to experience this huge milestone in life together.
One mistake I made was to go on many student-led treks to countries and not going on any Global Immersion Programs with the school. The difference is that treks are much more of a cultural and social focus in a specific country, while GIPs incorporate a lot more of the business and economic aspects of that country.
The most rewarding thing I was involved in was Leadership Fellows, a program where 48 students are selected and trained on executive leadership skills and then in charge of mentoring 18 peers on leadership throughout their time at Wharton.
13. How do you maintain balance in business school? Are you involved in anything on or off campus?
I maintain balance by being diligent about color-coding my calendar and putting everything I need to do on it (blocking off time). This way, I can see if on a given day or week I’m spending too much time on a specific area of my life.
I’m involved in a lot on campus, for example, being an Admissions Fellow, Leadership Fellow, and Marketing Club co-president. I also participate in cooking dinners in Food Club, and performing in Dance Studio.
14. What are your plans after graduation? What do companies look for when hiring business students? How much versatility or credibility does an MBA add to job prospects?
I’m working in marketing and insights at Impossible Foods.
Companies look for people who are ready to jump right into the work, take initiative, and have strategic thinking abilities. It’s also important for the candidate to be humble – I think there’s a stereotype among companies that MBAs are going to be more stuck up, so I’d advise all MBAs to work hard to break this stereotype.
I think the MBA can add a lot of credibility depending on the industry. I think tech might be an industry where a MBA comes off as either intimidating (a business person is going to come in and instill a lot of process and strategy to an environment that wants to move fast and break things) or useless (the two years in school are better spent getting work experience). I think as a woman, the MBA definitely adds more credibility.
15. How many business students in your class have started or will definitely start their own business after graduation?
I have no idea, but most schools will publish these statistics on their websites!
16. What is one thing you would change about business school if you had the power to do so?
Make it less expensive!
17. What advice would you give someone who is considering business school? How about someone who recently started business school?
If you are unsure or seriously considering, talk to alumni of the school(s) that are working in roles and companies that you’re interested in. Cold email them – you’ll be surprised how many are willing to chat.
If you just started, make sure to know your own priorities for why you are going to business school. Be honest with yourself about how much you can handle.
18. If you could turn back time, would you still choose to go to business school?
19. What are you currently reading? / What book has been the most impactful on your business school career or life?
I’m currently reading When by Dan Pink.